The SOMM Journal

June / July 2018

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{ } 63 B ordeaux showed us long ago that combin- ing certain grape varieties can elevate a wine beyond the sum of its individual parts. I find it refreshing to discover well-made blended wines from a real place with an authentic story—and it's a bonus if they're affordable, as well. I recently encountered two wines that fit that profile here in the United States: The Whip and The Spur, a pair of white and red wine blends produced by Murrieta's Well in California's Livermore Valley. Sourced exclusively from estate fruit, these wines have an inter - esting history and impressive pedigree. In 1884, Founder Louis Mel brought vine cuttings from Château Margaux and Château d'Yquem to California and planted them on the enchanting Liver- more Valley property he had purchased for his wife. The Mels planted vineyards and olive trees on the estate, which they named Olea Vista. Louis sold the property and the gravity- flow winery he'd built into a hillside to his friend and neighbor Er - nest Wente—a member of what's now one of California's oldest winegrowing families—in 1933. In 1990, Philip Wente and Sergio Traverso revitalized the estate, naming it Murrieta's Well after the outlaw Joaquin Murrieta, who is said to have watered his stolen horses at the artesian well on the property. Murrieta's Well remains part of the Wente family's estate to this day, and the 500-acre property has proved an ideal vineyard site. Its varied soil types and elevations, combined with a climate built for viticulture, provide hospitable growing conditions for an astounding number of varieties: 21 in total. Murrieta's Well Wine - maker Robbie Meyer says it's this broad palette of estate fruit that makes his job "fun"—a word Meyer uses often. He's an energetic guy with a spring in his step, an impish grin, and a childlike enthusi- asm which belie the number of vintages he has under his belt (22 or 23, by his count). Over the years, Meyer has worked for some of the top winer- ies in Sonoma and Napa. During a stint at Peter Michael Winery, he befriended fifth-generation winemaker Karl D. Wente, who was an intern there at the time. "Later, when he returned to Wente, he would invite me over to taste with the winemaking team," Meyer says. Eventually, the tastings he did "just for fun" led to a job offer to steer the small-production viticulture and enol - ogy program at Murrieta's Well. Harneing Ear and Air Meyer emphatically contends that the diversity of soils, elevations, and vineyard aspects available over the estate gives The Whip and The Spur a qualitative edge, setting the wines apart within the increasingly-popular blend category. "You see a lot of blends out there in the marketplace, but how many are 100 percent estate- AN IMMERSIVE HISTORY OF MURRIETA'S WELL AND ITS WINE DUO THE WHIP AND THE SPUR by Diane Denham / photos by bie Pullen Murrieta's Well Winemaker Robbie Meyer.

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